The power of a simple phrase
When my son was at school, it seemed like he was always in trouble with his teachers and the school were starting to encourage me to go down the route of finding some kind of medical diagnosis to explain his behaviour and I suppose resolve this problem for them and for him.
I wasn’t very keen on this idea but dutifully took him to the GP, dreading what might be said.
We walked into the tiny consulting room to be greeted by a man who seemed to overfill the space with his booming voice and broad smile. It took us both by surprise. He wasn’t your typical doctor.
I wouldn’t say he put us at ease, more that he was so intriguing that both my son and I were eager to hear what he had to say. There was something about this man that made you feel that he was about to share some great wisdom.
We’d never met him before and had no logical reason to believe that he was extremely wise, he just gave out that feeling.
After hearing why we had come for the appointment he did not disappoint in the surprise stakes. Rather, than spell out some fear- laden acronym such as SEN or ADHD, he boomed out “Get on with it!.”
Each word was said with slow deliberation. I can hear his tone and the rhythm of his voice ringing in my ears as I write this nearly 20 years on.
“When you want to muck about in class rather than do your work, “Get on with it!”, when you want to play Xbox rather than do your homework, “Get on with it!, when you don’t want to get up in the morning, “Get on with it!” and prove to them all how brilliant you are!”
It was powerful and simple and an easy phrase for us to get behind. It became our mantra at home. We motivated ourselves to get past the things we didn’t like or didn’t want to do with the wise doctor’s words. And whenever the school problems arose we’d remind our son to “Get on with it!” and the focus came back to achieving rather than avoiding.
Why was that simple phrase so compelling?
Why was that 2 – 3 minute visit to that GP so impactful on our lives? Why did we connect with his words so easily? And why did we not only remember what he said but also use it? In short what was the power of this simple phrase?
Aside from this man’s remarkable presence, I would say that it was the simplicity of the advice he gave us that resonated and stuck. He made a difficult situation easy to cut through and gave us an unassailable truth to get behind.
It’s a technique that has been used to great affect in UK politics recently. Who in the UK hasn’t heard these simple but powerful phrases repeated over and over by those supporting the leave campaign?
- Taking back control
- Get Brexit done
- Save our NHS
Three word soundbites that people got behind and supported. Not long, intricate, thoughtfully balanced, logical left-brain arguments. Three word slogans that appeal to emotions not logic. They are easy to connect with emotionally, are relatable to just about anyone and above all easy to remember and repeat.
I can’t remember the slogans put forward by the remain campaign can you? You can’t get people to get behind your cause if they don’t remember it.
Short slogans are so easy to connect with and interpret in a personal way. Aren’t they?
And yet we often forget this when we have something important to say.
The next time you are thinking about how to express your ideas in a speech, presentation or report, why not help your audience remember and take action on your words by using the power of the simple phrase? You might end up making a real difference to their lives just like that doctor did to ours.
Have you been thinking about improving your speaking technique and confidence? Maybe now is the time to “Get on with it!”. We would love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading this blog.